China is in the midst of spectacular change, which some have labelled the “Second Industrial Revolution”. Under the rule of Mao Tse-tung, during the Cultural Revolution, very little construction took place throughout the country. Now, as China steamrollers its way to modernity, it is as if a lid has been lifted off a pot of constructive energy that has been simmering for nearly half a century. The destruction of hutongs has been taking place for a number of years, but since Beijing was awarded the Olympics, the rate at which they are now being cleared has increased exponentially.
For thousands of Beijing’s residents, this “urban makeover” is coming at an incredible cost. According to UNESCO, in the past three years a third of the 62km squared area that makes up the central part of the old city has now been destroyed. This has displaced close to 580,000 people – one and a half times the total population of Washington D.C. [Full text]